A volunteerism rooted in love

Published 8:16 pm Monday, July 9, 2012

Volunteer of the week Judy Keohane is in her element when she’s surrounded by plants. (WDN Photo/Mona Moore)

Judy Keohane is often one of the last people to leave a Beaufort County Master Gardeners meeting.
Because she has a vast knowledge of local plants, other gardeners with questions stop her after the meetings.
“Just think of a plant and Judy will tell you its name (Latin and common) and whether it attracts butterflies or birds,” said Master Gardener Carol Barbato.
The Master Gardeners’ mission is to learn and share their knowledge of home horticulture with other area residents. No one takes that mission more seriously than Keohane.
“Our mission is to be available to the public,” Keohane said. “I’ve been a Master Gardener for over 10 years, and this year has been the busiest I’ve ever seen. It seems more and more people are getting into horticulture.”
The group answers gardening questions via a hotline, has a booth at Saturday Market and speaks to students.
Keohane said fielding questions via the hotline was a great way for members to build on their own knowledge. Sometimes, it is just fun to solve the problems callers have, she noted.
One of the most memorable calls Keohane received had nothing to do with horticulture. She said a woman called a few years ago because her backyard light bulb was missing. When the light bulb was replaced, it turned up missing again.
“After much laughter on both of our parts, we figured it might have been a squirrel,” Keohane said.
Keohane retired in 2001 and moved to Washington from upstate New York.
“I am a retired nurse who used to take care of people. Now, I take care of plants,” she said.
She got involved in the Beaufort County Master Gardeners program because she wanted to know what grows in North Carolina. New York’s gardening season was different.
“There’s six months of winter and about two months of enjoyment there,” Keohane said.
The Master Gardeners program operates under the guidance and oversight of a Cooperative Extension Service agent. When the organization lost its agent for several months, Keohane was one of the people who stepped up and helped keep the program operating and its members involved.
Now, she is in charge of the propagation garden. The Master Gardeners raise money by selling plants from the garden at an annual plant sale.
And what would Keohane recommend someone buy?
“Anything that grows. I love them all. I can never get enough of them,” she said.